Living in the world today means being out and about. Whether we ride a train to work, hop in a cab to get to the airport, or tote the family in the car, we need to carry our lives around. As we move from place to place, it is easy to accidentally leave belongings behind. Unfortunately, it is often a hassle (and expense) to replace them.
Years ago I developed a simple system to minimize the chance of forgetting a possession I was carrying. It is called the “Number of Items Trick,” and here is how it works:
Whenever you leave a location (e.g. when you leave in the morning, when you take off on a trip, when you head to a meeting), COUNT the number of separate items you have with you. For example, on a typical daytime outing, this might include:
- Cell Phone (it is good to count this separately because it is so easy to lose)
Of course, the list of what you might have with you will vary depending on your circumstances. If you are traveling on an airplane, you might also have a piece of carry-on luggage. If you are going to a meeting, you may have an extra bag with presentation supplies, a laptop, or a projector. If you are heading to school, you may have a piece of sporting equipment or a musical instrument. Perhaps you always bring a water bottle. On rainy days, you may have an umbrella. If you work in a specialized job or a trade, you may have specific tools you need to carry with you.
Whatever you take individually (i.e. not inside another container… the cell phone being an exception), add that to your count of the number of items.
Say OUT LOUD the number of items you are bringing, such as, “Today I have 5 items.” Speaking this phrase out loud gives your brain two impressions: the mental count and the auditory imprint of your voice, increasing the likelihood you will remember. If you wish, jot this number down on a post-it or record a note on your phone. You can label the note with the date to ensure it is current.
Each time you move from one location to another (e.g. you leave the cab to walk into the building, or you exit the playing field and head back to the car), COUNT the number of items you have with you. If you have fewer than you should, go through your mind to figure out what you might be missing. It may take a moment to recollect what you have left behind, but knowing you are short is enough to turn you around and prevent you from getting too far away before realizing your mistake.
The secret to this system is its simplicity in that it primarily requires you only to remember one number. It is easier to do a quick number count than it is to mentally review a list of every possession you might be lugging around. If you tally the correct number of items, you know you have what you need. Using this memory tool is surprisingly effective, and it works for both children and adults.
If you have lost too many phones to count, or your child can’t seem to come home with his sweatshirt, why not give it a try?
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Do you struggle with leaving items behind? What are you most likely to forget?